Hat of Heart from 'We Bought It' by Marlon Darbeau
"Political language, as used by politicians, does not venture into any of this territory [of the artist] since the majority of politicians, on the evidence available to us, are interested not in truth but in power and in the maintenance of that power. To maintain that power it is essential that people remain in ignorance, that they live in ignorance of the truth, even the truth of their own lives. What surrounds us therefore is a vast tapestry of lies, upon which we feed"--Harold Pinter, Art, Truth and Politics, 2005.
The relationship between the artist and politics is at once exceedingly complex and exceedingly simple. As Pinter points out, the artist, beneath her fictions, is ultimately concerned with the idea of a basic truth: of the self and the state of the world. But because the artist lives in a political context, it is inevitable that her work becomes embroiled in reacting to that political context. Arguably, though, the art itself must, to maintain its integrity, transcend such politics. But this in itself requires a truly deontological, if not political, system of set values and beliefs. For can art survive without politicised civilisation?
Graphic designer Marlon Darbeau this week posts two pieces on his blog which raise the perennial question of the relationship between art and politics. The pieces, at first glance, appear to be reactions to this week's opening of the building called the National Academy for the Performing Arts in Port-of-Spain, as well as issues dogging the political adminstration that built that it. The pieces are examples of art in politics in the best sense, but they, for me, brought to the fore questions whether or not artists have an obligation to focus on the politics of the day within their art.
Thinking about this this week, I was reminded of something once said by Adorno:
"Contemporary mass-culture is historically necessary not merely as a result of the encompassment of life in its totality by monster enterprises, but as a consequence of what seems most utterly opposed to the standardization of consciousness predominant today, aesthetic subjectivism. True, the more artists have journeyed into the interior, the more they have learned to forgo the infantile fun of imitating external reality. But at the same time, by dint of reflecting on the psyche, they have found out more and more how to control themselves. The progress in technique that brought them ever greater freedom and independence of anything heterogeneous, has resulted in a kind of reification, technification of the inward as such. The more masterfully the artist expresses himself, the less he has to 'be' what he expresses, and the more what he expresses, indeed the content of subjectivity itself, becomes a mere function of the production process"--Theodor Adorno, Minima Moralia, Part Three, 1946 - 1947.
Surely this idea of "technification" results a process that actually forces the individual artist to deal with the non-subjective. For, if art is concerned with life, and politics is concerned with power, then the artist is impelled to deal with that around him, as a part of dealing within. But at the same time, for art to retain its integrity, there must be no normative edict so directing. In which case, the process must be ultimately an individual choice which resolves itself in the work, if work ever resolves itself in any form.
CHECK Marlon Darbeau's blog here.